If you were to create a ven diagram of this site, then on one side you would have comics, on the other side you would have iPads and right in the middle where the two circles overlap would be Comic Hero: Old Habits (Die Hard). An interactive comic which you can read on your iPad it mixes old school text adventures with pulp crime comics. Starting in a jail cell you choose the direction you want the story to go in and it takes you on some wild and wonderful adventures. The folk behind it are developers Black Tobacco with writer Santiago Herrero and artist Manuel López Arambarri so I dropped them a line and asked them about the success of this great new app.
How did you come up with the idea for the Comic Hero app. Did you decide to make a comic first or an interactive game?
Black Tobacco: We’ve been developing mobile applications for more than four years, always for other companies, so our first need was to create something from our own, a 100% creation from the scratch. A lot of different ideas came up, mainly games, with the spirit to do something fun. We all are RPG and graphic adventure games fans, and also science fiction and comics entusiastics. So, what would the the simplest adventure game: tell a story and choose where to go. Put that in a device like iPad, where you can get great graphics and animations, and comic hero was born. We could find classic and motion comics in the appstore, but nothing like comic hero, so that’s how we started
Do you write and draw the app yourself? Have you drawn comics before or is this something you have always wanted to do?
Black Tobacco: We are software developers, our artistic skills are not visible, so after the idea came up, we started looking for the other part of the app: the artistic team. We contacted Santiago and Manuel, friends of ours since high school, we told them the idea, and they just loved it.
Manuel: One of the first things I stated to draw when I was a kid were TV superheroes, and then I got interested in comics. When I was about twelve I was creating and starting comics all the time, but I never finished one. In my teens I started with painting and traditional drawing. and now, I can work on “Old Habits (Die Hard)”, happily coming back to comics.
How is the artwork produced? Is it all done digitally and then put into the app?
Manuel: The layouts and the pencil and ink draws where done by hand, and then digitized and colored by computer.
Black Tobacco: Manu sent us the images files, and we integrated them in the application. We’ve developed a tool to compose the graph of the history. With this tool we visually compose every comic frame with the separate images that Manuel sent us. This includes the animation images, and the text for the different languages. The output of the tool is an xml file, that the application interprets and displays in the device.
How do you decide which bits to animate and do you script the story first or as you go along?
Santiago: I had the main story lines, but the real content was growing with the comic itself. Also, Manuel’s draws made me take some decisions, turning the creative process in a evolutive one.
Manuel:The animations decision was made based on the scene interest. The ones I choose to animate were the more spectacular ones (like lightings, electrocutions, gun shots), and the ones that helped to create a good background to the moment (rain, light effects) with the goal to make the reader get deeper in to the story.
Has the app been as successful as you had hoped and do you have plans to release more titles?
Black Tobacco: We had more than 2000 downloads, which is not bad at all. Our main goal is to became publishers of this new kind of comics, and release all the Comic Heroes we can. We’ve developed a platform to easily integrate new comics, including the iOS app itself (the android version in in progress) and the creation tool we mentioned before. So, if you have an idea and/or comic drawing skills contact us!
What do you think of the iPad as a way for people to produce their own comics? Good or bad?
All of us: New platforms and technologies are a great way to reach people. We are a group of friends that created a comic product that was read all over the world in three weeks. How would you dream to do that, as a comic writer, not so many years ago?
Also, there are the new possibilities that the platform bring us, like the animations, progress save, continue from the last frame you read, etc. Anyway, this is a new kind of comic, that will not replace the traditional comics. Is just something new and fun, that everyone can enjoy. At least, that’s our intention.